AN £80m merger bringing together two of the NHS’s biggest professional services suppliers has been announced.

The commissioning support units of Greater Manchester and Cheshire and Merseyside will come together, creating a new organisation spanning a population of more than five million across the north west, including Trafford.

Health cheifs say the move will bring together the expertise, experience and learning from both teams to develop improved services for their many clients.

And it will secure the long term future of the two organisations, which offer expert professional services at a large scale to the NHS and other parts of the public sector and have bases in Salford, Warrington, Chester, Liverpool and Nantwich.

The two organisations’ portfolios are extensive, providing business, clinical and commissioning support to NHS commissioners, hospitals, local authorities, GP practices, NHS England and others.

Together they have a combined income of more than £80m and have secured new business opportunities worth around £10m since they were formally set up in April 2013.

They cover a population of 5.1m, with 24 CCGs, 898 GP practices, 3 Area Teams, 19 Local Authorities and 18 Acute Trusts – seven of which are specialist trusts and five Mental Health Trusts.

Their work includes (see notes at end for more details): • An internationally recognised team working with hospitals and community trusts across the UK to review health systems, helping spot, analyse and monitor problems.

• The delivery of a £5.4m transformation programme to integrate IT across Greater Manchester.

• The management of contracts with hospitals and other NHS trusts worth up to £3 billion.

• Working with other CSUs to deliver a patient and public engagement programme across the North of England.

Leigh Griffin, managing director of Greater Manchester CSU, said: “This is an ambitious move which will secure our place as a significant player in the North West health and social care economy and a give us a formidable national presence.

“There is great opportunity now to bring together our expertise, experience and learning so we can help support our clients to transform the health and social care sector to meet the challenges it faces.”

Tim Andrews, managing director of Cheshire and Merseyside CSU, said: “Our clients are at the forefront of some of the most challenging issues the NHS and social care have ever had to face.

“The exciting and innovative changes they’re pioneering in the way services are delivered will improve the quality and effectiveness of care, as well as ensuring much better coordination and collaboration across different organisations.

“The merger of our two organisations means we can help answer this challenge much more effectively by drawing on the considerable combined talents of the teams across the region.”

The two CSUs already work with all 24 clinical commissioning groups in the region, as well as NHS England area teams, many local authorities and hospitals. They believe the merger will enable the potential for large scale transformational support across a historic and familiar North West footprint.

They also believe it will allow them to grow in to new markets and attract investment and partnerships. They are currently in advanced conversations with high profile commercial organisations working in the national and international healthcare arena.

The CSUs’ current clients also welcome the move, believing it will further strengthen the support to them.

Denis Gizzi, managing director of Oldham CCG, said: “We are a relatively small organisation in terms of management infrastructure, with around 45 staff, yet we’re accountable for spending approximately £400m to look after the health of 230,000 people.

“The CSU helps advise and support us so we can focus our leadership on securing the best outcomes for patients and improving the quality of services.”

The two organisations will move towards a merged single organisation in a measured way over the coming months.

The first step is the creation of one single Executive Director Team by April 2014. Each executive director will have a portfolio across both organisations. This will enable clear, consistent and focussed leadership during a managed move towards one single organisation.

The CSUs are assuring clients that it will not impact on the nature of the services they receive, nor the way in which they are delivered.

Both organisations are committed to retaining the best of what they offer and also exploiting the benefits that a larger commissioning support organisation can offer, including a wider range of services and skills.